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Does Car Color Matter?

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By Kristen Seymour on January 20, 2021 in Life Hacks

People select specific car colors for all kinds of reasons. You may base your choice on your all-time favorite color, what’s available when you’re shopping, or how well the hue hides dirt. (If you’ve ever lived on a dirt road, you know how important this can be!)

If the popularity of certain shades of paint tends to influence you — either because you want to be behind the wheel of something that blends in or because you’re all about standing out — it’s possible your picks have changed over time, as brighter colors were far more prevalent in the 90s than they are now. Neutrals are definitely having a moment: Currently, 74 percent of cars on the road are white, black, gray, and silver, according to CarMax, with black ranking as the most popular, closely followed by white. The top colors vary a bit by type — and price — of car; for example, red convertibles and black pickup trucks tend to be higher priced than other colors among those models.

However, the vibrancy of your vehicle may influence more than just your desire to drive it and your ability to pick it out in the parking lot. It could impact your visibility on the road to other drivers, along with other factors you may want to consider the next time you find yourself at the car dealership.

How the Science of Car Color Relates to Safety

In a way, this probably isn’t surprising. After all, taxis don bright yellow paint for a reason. It’s a color that stands out, making it easy to spot and perhaps easier to see and avoid in traffic than a color that blends in more with the road or surroundings.

Does the color of a car impact how likely it is to be involved in a crash? Research on the topic has produced mixed results. An Australian study in 2007 identified a statistically significant relationship between color and crash risk, suggesting that white was the safest car color, while researchers linked colors lower on the visibility index (black, blue, grey, green, red, and silver) with a higher risk. This correlation was strongest during daylight hours. However, researchers in 2019 used an advanced statistical model to look into the color/crash relationship, and their findings indicated that car color has no real impact on safety.

Still, there may be more to the association between vehicle color and safety than visibility. A 2012 French study found that the color of a car can impact the behavior of surrounding drivers. In a field experiment where experimental cars of varying colors (blue, red, green, black, or white) blocked drivers waiting at a traffic light, the red car elicited an early, aggressive response in comparison to the other colors. Maybe it’s not just bulls who feel taunted by the color.

Can Car Color Affect Resale?

As is the case with just about any investment, classic options tend to hold value better than trendier, showier choices. This may have something to do with the staying power of white, black, and silver cars. The model itself could change, but in a classic color, an older model may look less dated and therefore be more desirable to a new owner.

Darker colors such as black show dirt easily and therefore take more work to keep clean than their lighter counterparts, which means they see more scrubbing — and dings, scratches, and scuffs may stand out more. This visible wear means white, silver, and gray cars tend to age better, which can have an effect on resale value as well. Nobody wants to buy a used car that already looks beat up, right? Plus, if you want to keep your car looking clean on a daily basis, you’ll spend less time and money on washes and paint maintenance with a lighter-hued vehicle.

Are you drawn to a certain color for no discernable reason? It may be because it reflects your personality — or how you want to be seen — even if those factors only happen on a subconscious level. Someone with a seriously flashy personality, for example, may not feel at home in a simple white sedan, while someone who prefers to blend in will not likely fall in love with a bright yellow sports car.

If you’re indifferent about color but list safety as your top priority, keep in mind that while some researchers have found white cars less likely to be involved in an accident, you shouldn’t count on the color to keep you safe. Not all sources agree on a strong correlation. However, a light, neutral hue may benefit you when it comes time to sell.

Conclusion

The bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with simply choosing a car color because you like it. You’re the one buying it and you will drive it, so it should be a shade that makes you happy. Do your research, determine your priorities, and then pick the right hue for you. If you opt for a popular color, pay attention to other details so you know which car belongs to you in a crowded parking lot!

You can trust us, we know cars.


Kristen Seymour is a consultant for Say Insurance. She brought her passion for both pets and writing to the online space nearly a decade ago, working as an editor at AOL’s Paw Nation and then Vetstreet.com. She’s also a regular contributor to HealthyPet Magazine. Additionally, Seymour covers fitness, food and healthy (and yes, sometimes pets!) on her Fit Bottomed Girls website and podcast.

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